The petition to remove Carl P. Paladino from his elected Buffalo School Board position argues that he violated board policy when he disclosed confidential information discussed in executive session. The board members seeking his removal argue that disclosure interferes with their ability to conduct business.
Paladino's main defense at a hearing in Albany before state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, who will decide if Paladino should be removed, is that those seeking his removal are retaliating against him for comments he made late last year about President Obama and his wife, not for disclosing confidential information.
In a somewhat unexpected move, his attorneys are also trying to turn the tables, accusing the board of conducting illegal meetings and violating policies.
Here are the key arguments Paladino's lawyers made this week:
- The Board of Education and district released confidential information discussed in executive session when it launched a press campaign publicizing its bargaining positions and proposals. Attorney Nathaniel Kuzma testified district leaders released the information because they did not feel teachers were getting correct information from the union. Paladino's team argues that in doing so, the district and board also disclosed confidential information.
- Buffalo School Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold improperly calls executive sessions. Paladino's attorneys have shown a number of video clips in which Nevergold is vague in giving a reason for going into private session. State law limits the reasons boards can convene in private to discussions of personnel issues, contract negotiations and legal issues. Paladino's team argues that Nevergold should have been more specific in giving reasons for calling a closed session, and at times veered away from the disclosed purpose.
- School Board members met in an illegal, private meeting and informally decided to change course on their strategy for removing Paladino from his position. On January 17, Nevergold invited seven of the nine board members to a meeting with Miller, excluding Paladino and Larry Quinn. The public was not notified about the meeting, something Nevergold says is allowed because they were seeking advice from their attorney. Paladino's team, however, is questioning whether a majority of board members illegally met and informally decided to change course on their strategy to remove him. They say that should have been discussed and decided during a public meeting since it dealt with an issue coming before the board for a vote.
Paladino, the unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor in 2010 and New York State chairman of President Trump's campaign, won elections to the School Board in 2013 and 2016.
Protesters have been calling for Paladino's ouster over comments he made in an article published in Artvoice in December. Paladino wished death on President Barack Obama and said his wife should live in Africa with a gorilla.